Spain is one of the most popular traveler destinations in the world, and with good reason! This beautiful Mediterranean country that sits on the Iberian Peninsula offers diverse experiences, from lounging on the beach, to leisurely walks through the stunning countryside, to both historic and modern monuments built by famous Spanish architects and artists.
Imagine Moorish buildings, Spanish Renaissance masterpieces, and quirky modern art, and Spain is sure to have something to catch the eye at every corner.
After a long day of taking in the sights, you can unwind at a local cafe with a class of sangria and some delicious tapas. Have a look at our pick of the 15 best places to visit in Spain.
1. The Sierra Nevada
Not to be confused with the region of the same name in the United States, the Sierra Nevada in Spain is a mountain range that features Spain’s highest peak, the Mulhacén.
If you enjoy all things snow related then don’t miss a trip to one of the many ski resorts in the region where you will find skiing and snowboarding opportunities, and can stay in quaint ski chalets.
Also not to be missed is the Sierra Nevada National Park that covers the region, and where you can experience the great outdoors and learn all about the local flora and fauna of this wintery corner of Spain.
2. Santiago de Compostela
Often referred to simply as Santiago, this city in the semi-autonomous region of Galicia lies in the north west of Spain, and the big draw here is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Town.
The city is famous as an important pilgrimage site for Christians, having been a place of historic importance during the struggle between different religious groups in the days of old, and Old Town features the iconic Santiago Cathedral with its two intricately carved towers.
Old Town also provides visitors with the chance to stroll along winding lanes in search of toothsome tapas or local craft souvenirs, and the area is known for being lovingly and tastefully restored and preserved, giving you the feeling that you have truly stepped back in time.
Located in Andalusia, Almeria is the place to come if you want to spend time on undisturbed and pristine beaches, away from the usual tourist hordes.
Known for being one of the warmest spots in all of Spain, you can enjoy the sunshine and the seaside almost all year round, and if you really want to get away from it all then head to Playa San Pedro, a strip of beach that can only be accessed on foot, and which is home to a small population who live on the water.
Aside from the beach and the sea there are caves to explore and you can pitch a tent if you want to stay longer and enjoy the relaxed pace of life.
For another slice of history in Almeria, visit the famous Gold Mines, now no longer in use, and learn about the geology of the area at the mine museum.
4. The Costa Brava
Translated as ‘wild’ or ‘rough’ coast, the Costa Brava is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Spain due to its warm weather, abundance of beaches, and hospitable atmosphere.
As well as sandy beaches there are also natural park areas that have been protected from development, such as Montseny Natural Park, that will give visitors a glimpse of unspoiled nature and aims to teach travelers about the wildlife and plant life of the Andalusia region.
For more natural gems, travelers can check out the islands around the Costa Brava such as the chain of seven islands called the Medes Islands.
Found to the south of Madrid, the city of Toledo has a long and complicated history due to the presence of so many foreign influences that has lead to it being known as the ‘City of the Three Cultures’ thanks to the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian populations that co-exist in the city.
The main cathedral in Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dates from the 13th century and is built in the Gothic and Baroque styles.
The historic centre of Toledo is also well worth a visit and has a rabbit warren of streets that lead you on a maze-like adventure where you can seek out small cafes and bistros as well as local arts and crafts shops.
The city of Granada is famous for its place in medieval history, particularly during the period of the Moors, and many visitors flock to the region to see the mighty and majestic Alhambra palace.
The building, built by a sultan during the 11th century, also had the dual purpose of serving as a fort and there is much to see including traditional Moorish architecture and a history lesson in the different periods of conquest in Spain.
Aside from Arabic architecture, you can also visit classical Catholic monasteries such as Monasterio de la Cartuja, or just wonder the winding and charming cobbled streets.
Keep a lookout for the local street art and graffiti that is often present in Granada, a sign of the artistic and often political nature of this city.
The capital of Spain, Madrid is an exciting and diverse city that is home to the mighty Prado Museum, a must-visit for art lovers wishing to see world famous works by Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco.
For those who love architecture, head to Madrid’s Royal Palace, an elaborately decorated building that dates from the 17th century and has an armory attached that showcases examples of early weaponry.
From the palace, visitors can swing by Plaza Mayor, the city’s main square that has portico style buildings and where you can while away the afternoon roaming the cobblestone streets that lead off the square to small boutiques and eateries.
At night Madrid has a thriving and diverse music and entertainment scene, so you can dance the night away or just enjoy some live music and local cuisine in one of the city’s many restaurants.
If you like fine dining, then Madrid is leading the way in upscale versions of local classics
Pamplona is the capital of the province of Navarre in the north of Spain, but if it is synonymous with anything then it is surely the annual Running of the Bulls festival in which bulls are set to run through the narrow streets and chase revelers who run ahead of them.
The festival is usually held in July, and if you happen to visit at another time then there is still much to do. The city is a famous pilgrimage site along the well trodden route to Santiago de Compostela, and is full of interesting sites like Saint Nicólas Church, another example of Gothic architecture that looks like a fortress from the outside.
Come to Barcelona for the beaches, the hidden historical treasures in the winding streets, and the delectable seafood and flowing wines in the region.
If you like the seaside then make straight for Barceloneta Beach where you can enjoy the bracing sea air and unspoiled views over the Mediterranean.
If you are an art lover then explore the Gaudi buildings found all over Barcelona, including Le Pedrera and the word famous Casa Battló that looks like something out of an absurdist dream.
If you want to sample some of the best food in Spain then visit La Boqueria, a local market that dates back to the 13th century and features towering piles of produce from the region.
If you are feeling hungry after a long day exploring the city, then the area around La Boquria is filled with cafes and restaurants that are perfect for some delicious tapas.
Come to Cordoba for a taste of the Muslim influence in Spain, particularly in the form of the La Mezquita or the Great Mosque that still stands in the city and is a true marvel of Moorish architecture with towering domes, marble columns, and gold trimmings.
The Old Town of Cordoba is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and aside from the Great Mosque, there are also cathedrals, Roman bridges, Roman ruins, mausoleums, and amphitheatres for history buffs to visit.
The Muslim influence is still strong in Cordoba and many of the local cafes showcase Arabic food and serve traditional hookah pipes.
Also dubbed ‘The Town of Stones and Saints’, Avila is an often under visited gem that claims to boast one of the largest collections of Romanesque and Gothic churches in all of Spain.
Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dating from the 11th century, the town is famous for its towering cathedral and the old town walls that still stand to this day.
A trip to Avila is like a walk through history, and there are monasteries, towers, fortifications, museums, and palaces that make you feel as if you have wandered into the pages of a history book.
At night, you can sample the local cuisine and wines in one of the many local restaurants and bars that are also found all over the town, and are said to rival the churches in Avila in terms of sheer numbers.
A university town that has the claim to fame of housing the oldest university in Spain, Salamanca is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and features Baroque style squares, the best example of which is the Plaza Mayor in the city centre.
There is also Romanesque architecture on offer in the form of two cathedrals that are connected and have elements of Baroque and Renaissance architecture, and many of the buildings in Salamanca are crafted from local sandstone, giving them a bronzed glow under the afternoon sun.
Nowadays the city still has a large and diverse student population giving it an exciting atmosphere as well as a feeling of being the intellectual capital of Spain, and you will find cozy hang outs and bars aplenty to spend an afternoon of evening in.
Shrouded in myth that claims that Seville was founded by the Greek god Hercules some 3,000 years ago, this city is a mass of different influences and provides a perfect walk through Spain’s often complicated history.
There are Roman ruins to explore, as well as traces of the Moorish conquest, particularly in the Santa Cruz quarter at the Alcázar, a place built by Muslim kings and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its architectural beauty and importance.
If you stroll down to the riverfront, you can take a moment to visit the Torre del Oro, a watchtower built to protect the city against intruders trying to attack via the Guadalquivir River.
At night, Seville’s friendly and welcoming spirit really shines through, and you can listen to live music and enjoy delicious tapas that showcases the fresh seafood found in Seville like squid, dogfish, and swordfish.
Cadiz is not actually an island city but it may well feel that way to visitors, as the city is almost completely surrounded by water, so except pounding waves, salty air, and seagulls.
Much of old Cadiz would have been heavily fortified, so make for one of the best preserved examples of this at the Castillo de San Sebastian that stands on its own island, and learn about the history of protecting Cadiz from marauders from the sea.
Less visited by travelers, Cadiz has retained much of its old world charm, and you can roam around the local markets where you will find an abundance of fresh produce and seafood.
If you want to try some sea inspired tapas later on in the day, then head for La Caleta Beach and let the smell of grilled fish be your guide.
Found in northern Spain, this former historic capital of the Castile autonomous region is known for its stunning architecture, particularly in the form of the many churches and cathedrals that span the city.
Of them all, perhaps the most famous is the Gothic Cathedral of Burgos, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and built to reflect Gothic architecture at its most ornate.
Burgos also has a quaint and compact historic centre that is perfect for travelers looking to spend lazy days wandering the streets, and you will also find portions of the original ruins of the fortified city walls.
As Burgos sits on the tributaries of the Arlanzón River, admire the view as you walk along the banks of Fuentes Blancas, the largest park in Burgos that allows you to enjoy the water as well as indulge in camping, biking, or simply strolling and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.